Friday, January 30, 2009

Barrick Gold removed from Norwegian pension fund

Citing environmental concerns, Norway has expelled Canadian miner Barrick Gold from its $400 billion government pension fund.

The fund stated today that it had sold Barrick shares worth about $222 million due to reports of environmental damage at the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea. Barrick, the world’s largest gold producer, has a 95% stake in the project.

Norway created a Council of Ethics in 2004 to monitor the pension fund’s holdings.

“In its assessment, the Council on Ethics concluded that Barrick Gold Corporation is causing severe environmental damages as a direct result of its operations. I have therefore decided to follow the Council on Ethics’ recommendation on exclusion of Barrick Gold Corporation from the investment universe of the Fund," Norway’s Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen said in a statement.

Norway limited its investigation to the Porgera mine, but was also critical of what the minister called a lack of openness and transparency in the company’s environmental reporting.

Barrick has not released a public statement on the expulsion. However, spokesperson Vince Borg told Bloomberg that the company disagrees with Norway’s allegations that the Porgera mine operation is damaging the environment.

Barrick is “managing and mitigating the risks,” Borg said. “We’ve made steady progress in improving the Porgera mine in any respect from providing sustainable economic development to protecting the environment.”

The CPP Investment Board, the investment arm of the Canada Pension Plan, held Barrick shares worth an estimated $519 million dollars, as of March 31, 2008.

(All figures in Canadian dollars)

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